SECRETS OF SCANDINAVIAN BEAUTY

by Sandra Ramani

The resilient botanicals found in Nordic countries can teach us a lot about skincare.

From the concept of hygge (well-being achieved through “being cozy”) and a celebration of hyper-seasonal organic ingredients to a cultural and political dedication to sustainability ( just ask Greta Thunberg), there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the nations of far northern Europe.

Now, they’re helping to reinvent your skincare regimens, too. Born of the extreme climates and the unique ecosystems of countries like Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland, a host of resilient natural ingredients is increasingly being used in products to help increase cell turnover, boost hydration, calm rosacea, revive collagen production and more. “These super antioxidant berries and other Nordic plants have been used for skincare and health benefits for centuries,” says Eha Urbsalu, founder of Viking Beauty Secrets, who was inspired by the fresh and healthy skin of her 80-year-old mother. “And now we are bringing these secrets to America.” 

“When you think of Nordic skin, you think of skin that’s strong and healthy, and these ingredients help achieve that,” adds Erica Randlett, a New York City-based aesthetician specializing in facials that use gua sha, massage and organic products. While living in Sweden, Randlett began using sea buckthorn oil to help quell her rosacea and found the results so impressive that, once she moved back to the U.S., she worked to bring the MyHavtorn line to these shores and into the practices of top aestheticians.

As Randlett further explains, Nordic products are also born of a culture that values balance—making their power both about the benefits of the ingredients, and the way in which they use them. “There’s a Swedish word, lagom, which translates to ‘just the right amount’—just enough for something to be good and strong, but not extra,” she says. “People live by that principle, that there’s an order and purpose to something, and you don’t need any more than that. So these products don’t load up on unnecessary things. They follow those principles that nurture both skin and inner beauty—they set the balance.”

Photography by David Lewis Taylor

SOME OF THE KEY NORDIC INGREDIENTS TO LOOK OUT FOR INCLUDE:

SEA BUCKTHORN

Perhaps the best-known of the northern
“miracle” ingredients (it’s also found in Eurasia and the Tibetan highlands), this nourishing little berry boasts all four omega fatty acids (omega 3, 6, 7 and 9), over 190 bioactive nutrients and a high concentration of antioxidants. All parts of the plant are used for different results (teas are even made from the leaves, for example) and, depending on the form, can be both used topically and ingested.The oils come in two distinct forms: Berry Oil, which is bright orange in color, great for fighting chronic dryness (including eczema and psoriasis) and inflammation, reducing the appearance of scars, and supporting cellular and digestive health; and Seed Oil, which is bright yellow, and is perfect as an easily absorbed daily skin serum to fight wrinkles and dark spots, and good for heart and liver health.

CLOUDBERRY

Also known as “the Gold of the Arctic,” these precious (and pricey) wild stone fruits are native to some of the world’s harshest landscapes, and can be difficult to source. It’s worth the hunt, though, as the combination of vitamins C, E and A, ellagic acid, gamma linolenic acid and more helps minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage, soothe sensitive skin and irritated scalps, and protect against environmental stressors. (There’s also a long list of health benefits associated with eating the small, amber-colored berries.)

ROWANBERRY

Also going by the name Mountain Ash, the small Rowan tree produces berries that are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. When used in skincare, they can help detoxify, tamper inflammation, boost immunity, increase blood circulation and work as an astringent. They also serve as a natural antibacterial, and stimulate collagen synthesis to help prevent the signs of aging. As with all the Nordic berries, there are a host of reported internal benefits, too, including ones for digestion, asthma and cancer prevention.

RHODIOLA ROOT EXTRACT

Derived from a very robust plant that thrives in harsh conditions (such as cold, wind, drought and intense radiation exposure), Rhodiola extract has been used in traditional Scandinavian medicine for centuries, but is less known in the rest of the world. A natural source of antioxidant phenolic compounds, the extract protects from environmental damage and signs of aging for the skin, scalp and hair.

WHITE BIRCH EXTRACT

Known as the “Shining Tree,” for both its distinctive white bark and its many healing benefits, the White Birch’s bark and extracts are used in skin and bath products to provide an astringent, refreshing and soothing effect.

WHERE TO FIND THEM

These skincare lines are all rich in Nordic goodness.

VIKING BEAUTY SECRETS

Boasting Ecocert Greenlife Cosmos Organic certification (for its use of sustainable ingredients and 100 percent recyclable packaging), this newish line from Northern Europe is based on the power of four key ingredients: sea buckthorn, cloudberry, rowanberry and hyaluronic acid. The three core products include the Reviving Day Cream to hydrate, tighten, and fight lines and wrinkles; a lush Night Cream to nourish and refresh; and an oil-to-milk Facial Scrub with the added punch of volcanic ash. Look out for an eye cream launching soon. vikingbeauty.com

MYHAVTORN

Based in Sweden, and used by clued-in aestheticians in the U.S., this boutique line uses sea buckthorn grown in the owner’s family orchard in the Bollebygd Valley, along with pure mineral water and other natural goodness.

Find everything from hydrating hand and nail care and oils for the hair and body, to a Facial Mask with dried sea buckthorn and Moroccan clay. For the face, we love the smoothing and hydrating Face Cream, which also features argan and safflower oils; the Night Balm, which can be used to encourage overnight regeneration and during the day in particularly cold or windy conditions; and the vitamin-packed Face Oil, which works well alone as a serum, or together with the cream and balm for added benefits. myhavtorn.com 

SEABUCKWONDERS

Backed by decades of expertise (it was among the first to introduce sea buckthorn to the U.S. back in 1994), this Fair-Trade, certified organic line offers lots of potent products for both topical and internal use. Try the Body Lotion for intense moisture and protection against UV-related effects, or take the Berry Oil internally to support cell turnover and digestive function. The brand will also be launching a line of three nourishing face oils in March. seabuckwonders.com

KORA ORGANICS

The certified organic line was founded by supermodel Miranda Kerr, whose passion for wellness led her to graduate from New York’s School of Integrative Nutrition and become a certified health coach. The extensive range includes supplements and skincare products for the body and face. Among the latter is the Noni Glow Face Oil, which features sea buckthorn to boost clarity and provide vitamins C and A, and omega-7 fatty acids. Combined with rosehip and pomegranate oil and noni fruit extract, the face oil is a powerful tool for boosting radiance and hydration. us.koraorganics.com

RENE FRIS HAIR CARE

Formulated to be effective yet gentle, and free of sulfates, parabens and other nasties, the Rene Fris haircare line adheres to its creator’s passion for natural ingredients. “I’ve witnessed the incredible potency that the best natural botanicals, oils and extracts can have,” says Fris, adding that they’ve “literally gone to the ends of the earth to find some of these botanicals.” The Thickening Cleanser and Thickening Conditioner feature Arctic cloudberry, Rhodiola root, vitamin B5, and birch to cleanse the scalp, and add shine and volume—all without leaving any residue. renefris.com

WELEDA

This natural product pioneer has tapped into Nordic magic with its Hydrating Body & Beauty Oil, which is based on the omega- and essential fatty acid-rich sea buckthorn oil. Ideal for winter, the vegan formula leaves skin dewy, healthy and super-soft. weleda.com

SCANDIC BOTANICA

Using only natural/organic and sustainable ingredients found in Nordic countries (as well as few other globally sourced ones), the Scandic Botanica products are all made in small batches and presented in recyclable or upcycled packaging. Lock in moisture, heal skin irritations and inflammations, and protect the skin with the super-concentrated Arctic Cloudberry Balm, which marries the Norwegian Gold berry with mango and shea butter, coconut and avocado oil and more (making it great for chapped areas like elbows, knees and cuticles).

Perfect for both at-home and travel, the deeply penetrating Serum Solid line includes a Nordic Berry version to help repair damage and brighten dry and mature skin, and a Havtorn version with sea buckthorn to heal hyperpigmentation, fight aging and balance combination skin. scandicbotanica.com

LUMENE

Inspired by the Nordic dedication to well-being and harmony with nature (and their people’s ability to maintain healthy skin even in harsh climates), this beautiful line is powered by hand-picked, wild-crafted ingredients like Arctic cloudberry (paired with vitamin C) and pure Arctic spring water. Standout products include the Bright Eyes All-in-One Eye Serum to minimize puffiness, wrinkles and dark circles; the Arctic Berry Cocktail Brightening Hydra-Oil to nourish, brighten and even tone; and the silky Cleansing Balm, which energizes and hydrates as it removes all face and eye makeup. The Hydration Recovery Aerating Gel Mask also features organic Nordic birch sap to help instantly boost hydration levels. lumene.com


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